How to Copyright
Many people want to know how to Copyright a song, how to copyright a book and even sometimes how to copyright an idea. Copyrights cover many types of works of art, including books, music and even software. However, you can not copyright an idea, just a fixed expression of the idea which is found in the form of a book, music, photograph or painting.
Basic information about Copyrights
Unlike a patent, a copyright provides protection for a fixed work of art. It does not protect an idea or functional things. Specifically, a copyright protects original works of authorship such as books, music, plays, pictures, photographs, movies, software, architecture and other works of art. Copyrights provide protection whether the work is published or unpublished and unlike a patent, grants certain rights to the artist or owner of the artwork. Specifically, the law grants artist the exclusive right to reproduce the work, prepare derivative works, distribute copies and for some types of artwork, the right to publicly perform and publicly display the artwork. These rights are very valuable because they allow the holder to not only use the work but also to stop others from infringing music, infringing books, infringing photographs or infringing software.
What does it mean to infringe? Infringing means violating the artist's rights. An infringer is someone who uses the artwork such as an artist's book, song, music or photographs without permission. However, not all use of a book, song, music or photograph is infringement. Sometimes use of artwork without permission is allowed. Sometimes the use may be a defense to infringement. One common defense is referred to as "fair use” which may allow someone to infringe an artists' music, photographs or software.
Currently, copyrights in books, music, photographs and software lasts (for works created after 1978) for 70 years after the artist dies. In some cases, the copyright lasts for 95 years after first publication or 120 years after creation, if it wasn't published.
While copyright registration is not required for entitlement to the rights mentioned above, registration offers many advantages and is recommended before commercialization of the work. The purpose of allowing works of art such high protection is to reward the artist for investing the labor often necessary to create original art works. Even so, this reward has its price. After a period of time, the work becomes part of the public domain.
Registration of the work of art not only places the public on notice of the existence of the copyright but also is evidence that the copyright is valid. In addition, before a suit can be brought based on the original work of art, it must be registered with the Copyright Office. Finally, early registration of the work may allow the right holder to sue for certain damages provided under the copyright laws and collect the cost involved in bringing such litigation, including attorney’s fees. Therefore, it is recommended that you contact one of our experienced copyright attorney’s to assist you in your registration process.
Before a copyright can be registered, it is necessary to search through the existing library of copyright material to make sure the work is original.
Copyright infringement occurs when someone violates your exclusive rights, such as your right to reproduce your work; someone creates a work based upon your original work (such as adaptations for books, theater, film, and TV, as well as translations); someone distributes copies of your work; publicly performs your work; or publicly displays your work. Copyright infringement may also occur where a person or group exceeds their rights as provided for in a contract or license. When a claim of infringement has been made, a copyright holder may sue for:
- a preliminary or permanent injunction to prevent further harm;
- impounding and destruction of the infringing goods; and/or
- monetary damages.
There are exceptions and defenses against a claim of infringement, including a fair use exception, an independent creation defense and a claim that the person claiming infringement does not hold a valid copyright.
If you believe someone has violated your rights or if someone has challenged your copyrights, you should contact one of our litigation attorney’s at your earliest convenience.
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